They were actually just some French Jesuit missionaries to the Indians back in the 17th Century. You can probably guess the rest of the story …
#10 Hedwig of Andechs (Oct 16)
For all you duchesses out there …
Hedwig was indeed a duchess – of Silesia and then later of Greater Poland, both by marriage. She was born a countess. Andechs was the name of her own noble line.
Both Hedwig and her husband were very pious, devoting much to charity. Upon becoming a widow, Hedwig gave everything she had to the church and retired to a monastery, where she led a very humble life.
You gotta admit, Hedwig’s a pretty awesome name as well.
For some reason, there were no shortage of odd images of Hedwig out there
#9 Frideswide (Oct 19)
“Fried’s wide” or “free-duss-wee-duh”?
Actually, it’s pronounced “fries-wide.” You can find the whole story in gory detail right here (just be sure to scroll down a couple of pages).
So, who was she (and, yes, she was indeed a she)? Well, she was a real-live (Anglo-Saxon) princess. Her main story seems to resolve around her adopting a religious life, but having a suitor pursue her nonetheless. When he tried to abduct her, Frideswide was forced to flee. Various legends have the poor bloke pursue her then either go blind or break his neck in a fall from his horse. Frideswide is the patron saint of both Oxford, where she ended her flight and settled down, and Oxford University as well. All this happened in the 7th and 8th Centuries, by the way.
BTW, she also goes by Frideswith, Fritheswithe, Frithuswith, Frevisse, and Fris
#8 Finnian Munnu (Oct 21)
You may be familiar with his holy brother, the Blessed Finnian Haddie.
Sorry about that (and I hope you’re familiar with that rather obscure reference). Finnian was actually an Irish monk and missionary to Scotland (where he’s known as St. Mundus). He founded a monastery, attended synods, was a famous miracle worker, and suffered without complaint from some horrible skin disease. He was active in the 6th and 7th Centuries.
Actually, there’s no shortage of Finnians out there. In addition to our guy, we’ve also got Lobhar and of Lucca, Moville, Kinnitty, and Clonard. Our guy is also known as Finnian of Tech Mannu, Finnian of Taghmon, Fintan, Finton, Munnin, and Mund.
It’s basically just a smoked haddock (popular in Scottland)
… um, finnan haddie, that is
#7 Augustine Thevarparampil (Oct 16)
Go ahead, try to even pronounce this one.
Well, I guess it’s better than the other name he’s known by – Thevarparambil Kunjachan.
Augustine (let’s just call him that) was actually quite an admirable fellow – something of a male Mother Theresa. An Indian priest who lived during the 20th Century, he devoted himself to the Dalits, the lowest of the castes.
He still kinda looks like Mr. Spock though
#6 Jerzy Popieluszko (Oct 19)
This one? I wouldn’t even try.
I debated including this one. There’s really not a funny story behind this one. The events are also very recent, so may still be rather sensitive.
Basically, Father Jerzy was a Polish priest who became associated with the Solidarity movement. He would later be hounded and framed by the government and survive several assassination attempts before finally being murdered, quite brutally.
He was beatified in 2010 by Pope Benedict, 26 years after his death.
#5 Artemius Megalomartyr (Oct 10)
Is that like a megalomaniac?
Happily, “megalo” merely means “great,” so all this really means is Artemius the Great Martyr.
Artemius, who was born in Egypt, was a general in the Roman army. Quite popular with Constantine the Great (who made him Viceroy of Egypt), he would not do so well under Julian the Apostate.
#4 Luke (Oct 18)
Patronage: Worshipful Company of Painters
Luke, I think we all know. The Worshipful Company of Painters? Not so much.
Actually, all they were were a medieval London guild company. Their official name is the Worshipful Company of Painters/Stainers. Famous alumni include Joshua Reynolds, Peter Lely, and John Everett Millais.
The association with Luke? Well, legend has it that the evangelist painted a portrait of the Virgin Mary. On the continent, the typical painter’s guild was often called the Guild of St. Luke.
Here they come!
By the way, there are also Worshipful Companies of:
- Spectacle Makers
- Tinplate Workers
- Fish Mongers
- Environmental Cleaners
#3 Gall (Oct 16)
Representation: abbot blessing a bear, which brings him a log of wood
Wow! Could we be any more random here?
Like Finnian, Gall was another Irish missionary of the 6th and 7th Centuries. Unlike Finnian, Gall went much further afield. He started out in Gaul (too bad he didn’t stay there or he could have been Gall of Gaul), then continued on to Germany and Switzerland. In that last location, he turned down a bishopric and founded a monastery. The Swiss canton of St. Gallen ultimately gets its name from him.
Oh, the representation? Here’s how the fine folks at Wikipedia explain it:
Another popular story has it that as St Gall was travelling in the woods of what is now Switzerland he was sitting one evening warming his hands at a fire. A bear emerged from the woods and charged. The holy man rebuked the bear, so awed by his presence it stopped its attack and slunk off to the trees. There it gathered firewood before returning to share the heat of the fire with St Gall. The legend says that for the rest of his days St Gall was followed around by his companion the bear.
#2 Proculus of Pozzuoli (Oct 18)
Proculus was a martyr with Januarius and five others during the persecutions of Diocletian (specifically, in 305). The seven were thrown to some wild animals, who subsequently turned into teddy bears. Seeing as that move didn’t go over that well, the authorities then chopped their heads off (which always seems to work).
Proc’s feast day used to be Nov, 19. This meant that he was formerly known in Italy as 'u pisciasotto, “the pants pisser,” as it traditionally rains on that day.
#1 Ursula (Oct 21)
Representation: maiden shot with arrows, often accompanied by a varied number of companions who are being martyred in assorted, often creative ways
Longest … representation … ever.
And pretty darn weird as well.
So, here’s the story with Ursula … It’s a bit of a shaggy dog story, so bear with me. Legend has her born a princess in England. Betrothed to the governor of Brittany, she traveled there with a bridal party of 11,000 virgins (her companions in the representation above). Before the festivities, however, she decided to take the party to Rome, where she was then joined by the pope. The group then headed north, being intercepted in Cologne by some Huns. And that’s where everyone gets martyred in those “assorted, often creative ways.”
- Ethelbert of Eastry / Ethelred of Eastry
- Narcis Basté y Basté
- Thecla of Kitzengen
- Conogon of Quimper
- Gundisalvus of Silos
- Zoticus of Nicomedia
- Bernard of Bagnorea